Posts tagged ‘speakers’

Thoughts On Campus Speech 1: Hitler Would Have Been The Most Valuable Campus Speaker

Yesterday,  Yale did not cave to pressure from certain parts of the student body and Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke on campus.  As with many controversial speakers, mostly consisting of folks not on the political Left, a number of campus groups tried to force Yale to cancel her speech because they expressed themselves offended by her.   Among politically correct colleges, there has been a growing trend towards enforcing a right not to be offended, though this enforcement tends to be asymmetric -- Muslims apparently have a right not to be offended, but Christians do not.  Women have it but men do not.  Greenpeace has it but Exxon does not.

People of prominence who offend us or with whom we violently disagree should not be the least but the most welcome speakers on campus.  I will demonstrate this by using the most extreme of all possible examples:  An imaginary speaking tour by Adolph Hitler, say in December of 1938.  Could there be a more distasteful person, the leader of Nazi Germany just weeks after the Reichskristallnacht?  But I think he would have been the most valuable speaker I could possibly imagine.

If he were honest, which Hitler likely couldn't have stopped himself from being, what valuable insights we could have gained.  The West made numerous mistakes in the late thirties and even into the forties because it just could not believe the full extent of Hitler's objectives and hatreds**.   Perhaps we would have understood sooner and better exactly what we were dealing with.

Even if he were dishonest, and tried to "convert" the office without discussing specific plans, that would still be fascinating.  What arguments did he use?  Could we get insights into why he struck a chord among the German people?  Would his rhetoric be compelling to American audiences?  I despise the guy and almost everything he stood for but I would have loved to have him on campus as a speaker.

I will tell one of my favorite stories about the rise of Hitler.   You have heard the story of Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.   Supposedly this was a slap in the face to Hitler, to have a black man winning medals.  But one of the last events of the games was a four man relay race.  The US was certainly going to win.  But one of the US runners was Jewish and the US pulled the runner from the race and substituted Owens.  The US didn't want to embarrass Hitler by making him hand a medal to a Jew.  This sounds odd to put it this way, but one of the problems we had in really taking the worst of the Holocaust seriously as it was happening is that we were not able to see that Hitler's anti-semitism was so much more dangerous than the ubiquitous and run-of-the-mill anti-semitism that obtained all over Britain and America.  We should always have a policy of letting even the most extreme people talk as much as they like.  We might learn that they have a point and adjust our thinking on something, or we might learn that they are even batshit crazier than we thought.  Either outcome is useful.

Sentence Planning

One of the transitions English speakers have to make in Romance languages, and I have found particularly in Italian, is that the object of the sentence that we so often put at the end ends up at the beginning of sentences.  For example, in Italian, when translating the phrase "I can show it to you", the "to you" and "it" end up as the first two syllables ahead of everything else.

I was working on this just yesterday in my Italian lesson so I got a laugh out of XKCD

You absolute-fucking-... shit.

Best Buy Says It's Not Afraid of "Showrooming". Really?

Best Buy says it is not afraid of showrooming, the practice of testing products at a physical retailer and then buying it online.  Best Buy says it is confident it can convert visitors into buyers, even if their intent was to buy online.

Well, that is a brave front.  And I wish them luck -- I certainly like having bricks and mortar retailers around when I need something fast and can't wait for the UPS truck.  But it probably was no accident that the article was illustrated with this picture:

MK-CH537_SHOWRO_G_20131103185606

 

What don't you see there?  CD's, DVD's, speakers, DVD players, computer games and most of the other stuff that used to make up a lot of Best Buy's floor space.  Because they have already been demolished by online retailers in those categories.   The picture above is of appliances, one of the few high dollar categories that has not migrated to the web.   Go to Best Buy and you will see appliances, health equipment, and TV's, all categories where bricks and mortar stores have some advantages over online.

This makes perfect sense, but don't tell me Best Buy is ready to take on the online retailers.  They are bobbing and weaving, ducking this competition wherever they can.

Postscript:  Best Buy is hoping that having "trained" sales people to help customers will garner business.  There are two problems with this.  One, the training of their sales staff has always been spotty, and likely will not get better as their financials go south.  And two, I find that Amazon.com reviews are far more helpful, and often more knowledgeable, than most in-store sales staff.   But on the positive side, who doesn't enjoy getting hassled for an extended warranty at checkout?

Pimsleur Italian Update, 55 Lessons In

I discussed a while back by decision to try the Pimsleur course over other brands.  So far I have been happy and I feel like I have retained a lot.  However, it is NOT for everyone.  It did not work for my wife, for example.  Here are what I think are two key considerations in committing time to this course / approach:

  1. You have to be able to learn from hearing and speaking.  There is only a little reading and no writing.  This is perfect for me -- taking notes actually interrupts my memory retention process.  But my wife likes to write, take notes, make lists.  She is a memorizer, I am an experiencer, if that makes sense.  By the time she gave up she had this huge long list of words and definitions she kept referring to.  If this is your learning style, it is not going to work well for you.
  2. You have to be a bit of a detective.   This did NOT fit my wife but did fit me (I was someone who would never memorize an equation if I knew I could derive it on the fly if I needed it).   The tapes almost never, ever explain any grammar.  You learn by example, and then are expected to construct the rules yourself in your head from the examples.  For example, never are the rules of verb conjugations given.  You just start noticing that all the first person present tense conjugations tend to end in "o".  I had little trouble with verb conjugations because I learned them in Spanish in a rigorous way and they are fairly similar in Italian. But Italian article and preposition rules are unlike both Spanish and English.  They have a lot of "a vs. an" type rules that can be a bit non-intuitive, and the preposition choices between "a" and "in" and "di" and "da" and "per" can drive English speakers up the wall (for example, you use a different proposition for going to a city vs. going to a country).  Now, most of us learned the "a vs. an" rules just through usage long before we had a grammar class, and a lot does sink in this way just speaking and listening, but I finally had to buy an Italian grammar book to make sure I had the full set of rules.

The other thing I have trouble with is that my hearing is not great and Italian is all about running your words together.  They LOVE contractions and blending ending vowels into beginning vowels of the next word.  I keep a Google translate window open on my desk so I can actually see new words they are using to make sure I am learning them correctly.

Postscript:  I have decided that Italian articles are Fate's revenge on me for years of fake Russian Boris Badanov accents where one makes fun of the tendency to drop articles (e.g. "Ve must get moose and squirrel").  Italians use articles in many circumstances where we typically do not in English.

Resort with Spectacular Views

I don't like to recommend destinations that are really expensive (why get people excited about a place they can't afford to visit) but we splurged this weekend on the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona.  It is the most spectacular location I have ever seen for a landlocked (ie non ocean-front) resort.  It is almost impossible to do it justice in photos, because it sits at the end of a box canyon and is surrounded on three sides by red rock walls.    Some pictures are here in the google image result.  Expect to pay $300-400 and up for a night, though you will get a very nice room even for the lower rates, and large casitas for higher rates.  As is usual for resorts, meals are crazy expensive -- its hard to get through breakfast, for example, for less than $20 a person.  But the views and hiking and everything else here are just beautiful.

One of the things I enjoyed was the resort had a native american climb onto a local rock outcropping a couple of times a day and play peaceful flute music that echoed around the resort.  You can see a group gathered around to watch (update:  A reader was nice enough to Photoshop out some of the haze using a levels command trick he taught me a while back -- you can compare below to this original)

enchantment1 copy

It freaked me out for a while because I would here this low-volume music as I walked around the resort and I could not figure out where it was coming from (I kept looking for hidden speakers until I figured it out).

As an added bonus, the night sky is totally dark -- you are out in the wilderness about 15 miles from Sedona and out of site of any other habitation of any sort and almost completely surrounded by canyon walls.  As a result, it is one of the few places where us city folk can see the Milky Way in all its glory (below is my amateur photography (you may have to click to enlarge to really see the Milky Way, but its there).

click to enlarge

 

The restaurant there is quite good and there are excellent tables on the deck outside to watch the sunset.  But if you want a slightly different Sedona experience (though equally expensive) the Restaurant at the L'Auberge resort right in the town of Sedona on Oak Creek is terrific.  The food is great and the location on the creek is very romantic at night.  Here is the view from my table right around sunset.

laub

You can't get closer to the water than that!

Postscript:  If you like the idea of creekside dining but don't want to blow a hundred bucks a person for dinner, I have eaten at a much less expensive, much less highbrow restaurant that had a very similar location.  It is the Rapids Lodge Restaurant at Grand Lake, Colorado, and is a great place to eat on a trip through Rocky Mountain National Park before you turn around and head back to Estes Park.  Here is the view from our table there:

click to enlarge

 

PPS:  Other US resort views I like:  Highlands Inn, near Carmel;  Hapuna Resort, Big Island, Hawaii;  Sanctuary Resort, Phoenix, AZ (though the rooms really need an update);  Trump Hotel, Las Vegas (located right on the bend of the strip so the strip view rooms look straight down the strip at night).

Update:  In the spirit of equal time, a reader writes that the Enchantment Resort ruined Boynton Canyon.  Its impossible for me to say -- I never knew it in its pristine state.  I will say the resort itself does a pretty good job of keeping a low profile in the canyon -- no buildings that I saw over 2 stories tall, most of the old trees are preserved.

Subjunctive in English -- Are There Examples Other than "Were"?

The other day I joked that most of my memories of Spanish in high school were of trying to learn and conjugate the subjunctive, an activity for which English speakers are not well-prepared.

In fact, the only example of a unique subjunctive verb conjugation I can think of in English is "were".  For example in "if I were a rich man,..."

I am sure there must be others.  I could Google it, but does anyone know any off hand?

Update:  We already have an awesome answer in the comments.  Though I am unclear how anyone that proficient in grammar can stand to regularly read this blog.  Makes me even more self-conscious about proof-reading better, which I actually have been attempting, even if the results are not obvious.

Progress on an Amp

I was looking for a 4-channel amp to drive a pair of bipole speakers.  For fun, I decided to try to build one.  I bought a broken amp off eBay just for the case for about $30.  In retrospect, I probably should have bought an inexpensive blank case they sell to hobbyists.  At the time, I was intimidated by drilling and tapping a lot of holes in a metal case.  Since then, I have found this to be easy, easier in fact that ripping all the guts out of the old amp.

photophoto (1)

Anyway, I finished the power supply.  The big fat over-sized torroid delivers 35 volts AC to the diode bridges and the smoothing capacitors on the back end, which in turn delivers about 48.5 volts DC for my amp (this measured dead-on the expected 35*sqrt(2)-1 one would expect).  I tried to save some of the old amp's 110V circuitry (such as some filter capacitors).  It had a relay with some sort of delay circuit in parallel with a big resistor as a soft-start mechanism, to prevent a big inrush current.  I could never make it work right, so I replaced it with the poor man's alternative, which is a couple of thermistors that have high resistance cold but quickly heat up and lose their resistance when the power is on.

The capacitors and RC network are in an absolutely beautiful empty board I bought from someone on eBay who etched boards for First Watt kits (an amp series that the designer has generally put into the public domain).  I cribbed the power supply off the design for an F5 amp, though I had to adjust wattage and voltage values to match the voltage I needed.  I spent a week dithering on what capacitors to use -- audiophiles go on an on about capacitors.   Finally, though I am sure all these folks will swear to God they can hear the difference between two brands of capacitor in the power supply, I finally decided I probably would not notice and bought some well-regarded but reasonably priced ones (similar to my approach on that other audio equivalent of wine-snobbery, speaker cables).

What you don't see are two big aluminum heat sinks, which will fill much of the space on either side of the power supply.  The diode bridges and amps will be connected to these.  I have circuits both for a Class A amp, which will need every inch of the cooling, and a class D amp, for which the heat sinks will be an unnecessary overkill.  But they came with the box and I have the space.

B&W 805 Speakers for Sale

I know some of you live in Phoenix.  I am offering a deal to get rid of some B&W Nautilus 805 speakers that are in great shape.

Update:  sold

Time for Some Individual Action in NY

Folks in the OWS neighborhood in NYC are fed up and want the city to kick out the protesters.  While they grow old waiting for that, I would suggest taking some individual action right out of the army psi-ops manual (actually, its also from a Sopranos episode).

  1. Find some big-ass speakers
  2. Find the biggest amp you can
  3. Place speakers in window, point out at park.
  4. Find the single most annoying recording you can, and play it at volume 11 .. over and over and over and over, day in and day out.  I might try "I'm turning Japanese" or maybe "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas."  Possibly the song they used to play over and over in FAO Schwartz stores, or "It's a small world."   Or maybe something like a Joel Osteen sermon.  It almost doesn't matter once its been repeated 12 times an hour for 3 days.

New Speakers

I really enjoyed my first foray into building speakers  (the first ones were here, and were an L-C-R for the home theater).   So I tried building a new pair.

The home theater speakers are behind the projection screen (the big gray thing in the picture).  The speakers definitely lose something behind the screen.  Though it is no big deal on movies, for music I wanted speakers outside the screen.  I needed something with high WAF  (a term very common on audio discussion boards, it stands for wife acceptance factor) but that sounded good.  In effect, I needed something relatively small that filled a big room.

These are bipolar speakers, which does not mean they are good at playing Rage Against the Machine albums.  It means they have two drivers, usually at 180 degrees from each other.  The advantage if well designed can be more full, room-filling sound.  These have the second driver mounted on top, rather than in back.  The reason for this is that I knew they would be close to the wall, and bipoles with rear-mounted drivers need space I did not have.   I built them roughly to this design, though I used MarkAudio Alpair 7.3 drivers instead of those in the design, and I moved the port to the front from the bottom.

These are full range driver speakers.  The driver actually runs from about 60-ish Hz to over 20,000 Hz and is pretty dang flat over that range.  The advantage of this is we get rid of the electronic crossovers between the woofer, mid, and tweeter.  Often the crossover frequencies sit right in the most sensitive range of the ear, as well as in vocal range, such that even small irregularities degrade the sound.  Also, the sound is coming from a single point source, which sounds great, and the speaker is more efficient.  The downside, of course, is that it is asking a lot of a driver to cover this wide range.

These speakers sound amazing  (I will spare you the audio review-speak that sound so eerily similar to wine-snob-speak).  You would simply not believe the sound that comes out of these little drivers.  The bass is pretty solid too, though I think I will add a subwoofer on the bottom.  The bass reinforcement comes from the quarter-wavelength transmission line design, the theory of which is discussed in great depth here.   You can find a lot of this sort of design in stores, as the tall thin tower look is aesthetically appealing, and has the fortunate side effect of working well for bass reinforcement (probably the number one role of any cabinet).   I spent a lot of time in Mathcad on these.  I am starting to reach my goal of eventually building speakers of my own design -- for these I modeled and then modified an existing design.

The boxes are built out of 3/4-inch baltic birch plywood, again with all large saw cutting done by the lumber yard, while I did the rest at home.  This is my first experience with veneer, which i in this case is black-dyed ash and it came out great, though I put the satin polyurethane coating on a bit too think and got them a bit glossier than I wanted.  They are well braced on the inside and the back is removable to tune them with more or less fiber stuffing -- at first I only had a bit and the bass was too boomy, but adding more along the length of the speaker tightened the bass as well as the mids a bit.

This was a very easy project, much easier than the first speakers I built.  As I learned the first time, with router jibs, round holes are actually easier than square ones.  If someone is looking for a great starter project, these speakers, with just one driver, would be my choice.  Markaudio is a great driver manufacturer, not only because they are making what may be the best full-range drivers out there, but their proprietor spends a ton of time on the boards interacting with the DIY community to find out what they would like to see changed.

Before You Buy Those Cheap Computer Speakers....

I have invested some decent (but not stupid) money on my home stereo, but I have realized I listen to my crappy computer speakers about 3 times more.

So here is the first step in my upgrade, a pair of powered studio monitor speakers.  At under $200 a pair, they are not that much more expensive than higher-end computer speakers.   These are built for near-field listening and sound much better than most computer speakers.  The one I chose are a tad large, but I have loved them so far, even without a subwoofer.  These particular units are cheaper at Amazon by $10 but Sweetwater has better selection and help choosing studio monitors.  Just make sure you have the cable situation sorted out -- most studio monitors take a special 3-prong balanced XLR input common in high end and pro audio but not in most consumer audio.  But you can easily find a number of converter cables.

If I keep listening at my computer, the next improvement step is an inexpensive DAC (which can correct a lot of mess in computer digital audio).

Corn Farmers and Hollywood Studios

What do corn farmers and Hollywood studios have in common?  They both have an uncanny ability to force self-serving legislation through Congress.  This week's bit of sucking up to Hollywood is the PROTECT IP act, currently under consideration in Congress:

An ideologically diverse group of 90 law professors has signed a letter opposing the PROTECT IP Act, the Hollywood-backed copyright enforcement/Internet blacklist legislation now working its way through Congress. The letter argues that its domain-blocking provisions amount to Internet censorship that is barred by the First Amendment.

Jointly authored by Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post, the letter is signed not only by prominent liberals like Larry Lessig and Yochai Benkler, but also by libertarians like Post and Glenn "Instapundit"Reynolds.

"The Act would allow courts to order any Internet service to stop recognizing [a] site even on a temporary restraining order... issued the same day the complaint is filed," they write. Such a restraining order, which they describe as "the equivalent of an Internet death penalty," raises serious constitutional questions.

The Supreme Court has held that it's unconstitutional to suppress speech without an "adversary proceeding." That is, a speaker must, at a minimum, be given the opportunity to tell his side of the story to a judge before his speech can be suppressed.

Yet under PIPA, a judge decides whether to block a domain after hearing only from the government. Overseas domain owners (and the speakers who might make use of their websites) aren't offered the opportunity to either participate in the legal process or appeal the decision after the fact. (Affected domain owners may file a separate lawsuit after the fact.) This, the professors say, "falls far short of what the Constitution requires before speech can be eliminated from public circulation."

 

Congrats to Massachussetts

Apparently, they have had three straight speakers of their state House of Representatives facing criminal charges.  And by the way parents .... unless you want to almost guarantee your kid is going to be investigated for corruption and racketeering by the FBI, don't name him Salvatore.

Speaker Build Report

I wanted to share my build report on my new home theater speakers.  I built three matching speakers - left, center, right - to go behind my acoustically perforated projection screen.   Because they stay behind the screen, this is perhaps the last time they will ever be seen.  But I wanted to get better at wood-working skills, so I tried to build these as if they were to be visible (but at several steps I could have taken shortcuts which I will describe).

Here are the finished product:

I will put the rest below the fold so as not to bore those not interested.  My apologizes to feed readers, but I think you will see the whole thing.

Continue reading ‘Speaker Build Report’ »

They're Done

My speakers (L-C-R for a home theater) are complete!  They sound fine on the initial test, though they need to break in for many hours.  Here is how they look (the paint job is actually truck bed liner).  I will post a complete build report when I can get caught up.

Getting Really Close

I have decided to save the photo-essay of my speaker-building project until the project is finished and I can put it all in one long post.  However, just as an update, I am really close to done.  The three speakers (left, center, right) will go behind my accoustically-perforated projection screen.  As you can see, the enclosures are complete and primed and the crossovers are complete and installed.  The special paint I ordered arrived today so I can paint this weekend and install the drivers.

The funny shape of the openings at top are due to my choice of drivers -- the tweeter will be a horn-style driver, an approach I wanted to try for home theater in a large room (movie theater speakers use the same technology).  The cabinet is ported for bass response -- that is what the rectangular opening is in the upper right.   These are based on a design by Pi speakers.

Knock on wood but given my total and complete lack of carpentry skills and experience (think Anthony Michael Hall in the Breakfast Club, the geeky kid who fails shop), I am just thrilled with how they are coming out.

Just a teaser -- all will be explained soon....

My Speaker Project, and Thoughts on a Businesses Liability Kills

I am in the process of building some speakers for my home theater.  This is something I have never done before, but the idea has always intrigued me.  So much so I have actually played around with software and designed a lot of cabinets and crossovers, but never built them.  I am finally going to build an L-C-R for my home theater, and since they go behind my projection screen (the screen is perforated for sound transmission, just like in movie theaters) the pressure to produce flawless cabinetry is reduced significantly.  In fact they will probably be built out of raw MDF finished in black, though I will try to make them look nice just for the practice.

Anyway, one of the reasons I have put off this endeavor is that I do not own a some of the key tools, and do not have the space for these tools.  I have a nice router, belt sander, jig saw, etc.  but I do not have, and really don't have the space for, either a table saw or a drill press.

Which led me to wonder if folks had well-outfitted workshops that they lease out by the hour for such work.  After all, with a good plan in hand, I probably don't need more than an hour on a table saw to get what I need -- most of the project will be in routing the speaker holes and counter sinks, assembly, and sanding/finishing which I can do at home.

Of course, I could not find such a thing.  I could not even find a storage locker that would let me use it as a work shop.  Thinking about this, I am not surprised.   No matter what I get a customer to sign, now matter how well maintained the tools, if someone cuts their hand off using a tool in a stupid and careless way, there is likely going to be a jury somewhere that still wants to assign me liability.

My readers tend to be very nice about rushing to help -- I got about 10 emails offering to help me with my server migrations.  I turned them down because part of the point was to learn to do it myself, and my learning process tends to be by trial and error doing things myself.  Anyway, please do not offer me your shop -- I have found a local community college that allows its shop to be used after one has completed a training and familiarization course (which seems a reasonable precaution).

I am excited about getting started, and am just starting to accumulate the materials.  BTW, in case it becomes relevant to you in the future, a full 4x8 sheet of 3/4-inch MDF is really heavy.

Postscript: I will let you in on my secret ambition.  I really, really want to build a pair of line arrays, as much for their shear bad-ass looks as anything else.  Of course, my wife would freak and I am not sure where they would go in my house, but someday....

Home Theater

Glenn Reynolds has a discussion of projectors as an alternative to flat screen TVs.  I have been a projector owner through 10 years and 3 generations and am a big fan of them in certain applications.

I have an Epson 8500UB, which is close to the top of their line and can be bought under $2000 (which is amazing - the projector price drop in the last 10 years has been stunning).  It is a 1080p projector with great blacks and color.  I have it ceiling mounted with a 110-inch diagonal 16x9 Stewart screen.  I have one of the silver fabrics (I think the Firehawk) that enhances black levels over the white fabrics (there is a reason movies used to be shown on the "silver screen.")  The screen is acoustically perforated so the speakers (except for surrounds) are actually behind the screen (as in movie theaters).

In the evening, with the lights down and the projector adjusted correctly, the effects is awesome.  Not to be missed.  I have had to kick many visitors out of my house.  Sports are also amazing, particularly in HDTV.

As Glenn's commenters mention, you have to be careful with light.  I picked this Epson both because it is really about the best in its price range, but it also is very bright.  Unlike my last generation projector, it can overcome some ambient light.  I have to have blinds in my den, but with the blinds down but the room still lighted well I can watch sports on the bright setting quite well with this projector (you really don't want to watch a movie with this bright setting - movies are all about the blacks, and to get those looking great you need darkness).

Anything 60" and below, get an LCD.  But if you really want a ridiculously large screen for movies and sports, this is the only way to go and I highly recommend the Epson line -- they have projectors at many price points and they are mostly all very good.

Defending Speech With Which I Don't Agree

Yeah, I think the title is worded awkwardly, but I am trying to curb my enthusiasm for ending sentences with prepositions  (I will continue to boldly split infinitives that no man has split before).

Anyway, in the spirit of this post and this one, I try from time to time to reinforce my support for free speech as an absolute right by publicly supporting the speech rights of those with whom I disagree.  Today's case is the public University of Nebraska-Lincoln deciding to un-invite former terrorist William Ayers to speak on campus.  The reason given was the current weak-ass excuse often used to reverse the invitation of controversial speakers, "we can't gaurantee security." 

Though I would never have hired the guy, Ayers is a professor at a real public university, and what he has to say is particularly relevant given his ties to Barack Obama.  I find the behavior of Nebraska's conservative politicians to be especially absurd here -- after months of calling for more discussion and disclusore of Ayers and his ties to Obama, they want to prevent Ayers from speaking publicly?

Update:  In an odd coincidence, at about the same time I was writing this post, the NY Times blog was posting on split infinitives.

Know Your Enemy

I want to thank Tom Nelson for the pointer, because I usually don't hang out much at the Socialist Unity site.  But I thought that this post was telling.

While it may be urgent that we create a red green alliance to
strengthen radical social action to stop climate change, our collective
problem is how are we going to do that?

The Climate Change Social Change Conference
held in Sydney Australia during April tried to tackle that
challenge.This was a bold attempt to bring together left and green
activists in order to locate a shared perspective around which we could
begin more consciously organize....

Foster and Perez urged the conference's participants to consider
socialism as the only viable solution to the climate emergency. This
was a persistent theme discussed throughout the three day event as
speakers were drawn from a range of environment movements and
organisations (such as the Australian Greens and Friends of the Earth)
as well as academic specialists "” who preferred solution packages which
were not consciously committed to a socialist transformation of
society..

Great First Ammendment Ruling

From FIRE, comes this really encouraging ruling:

Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil partially granted plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction in the San Francisco State University (SFSU) speech codes litigation. Yesterday, Judge Brazil issued his written opinion on the motion, and in so doing struck a devastating blow against speech codes at universities in California and hopefully"”...

Judge Brazil enjoined the university from enforcing both the civility
requirement and a related provision allowing student organizations to
be punished collectively if any group members engage in behavior
"inconsistent with SF State goals, principles, and policies." Judge
Brazil did not enjoin the university from enforcing its prohibition on
"[c]onduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any
person within or related to the University community, including
physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, or sexual
misconduct." However, he emphasized that the provision must be narrowly
construed to only prohibit that "intimidation" or "harassment" which actually endangers someone's health or safety,
and explicitly directed the university that the policy "may be invoked
only as it has been construed in this opinion." This limiting
construction prohibits the university from interpreting that provision
broadly to punish constitutionally protected speech (since the vast
majority of speech that actually endangers someone's health or safety
is not constitutionally protected).

Here are a few excepts from the Judge's decision:

It is important to emphasize here that it is controversial expression
that it is the First Amendment's highest duty to protect. By political
definition, popular views need no protection. It is unpopular notions
that are in the greatest peril "” and it was primarily to protect their
expression that the First Amendment was adopted. The Framers of our
Constitution believed that a democracy could remain healthy over time
only if its citizens felt free both to invent new ideas and to vent
thoughts and feelings that were thoroughly out of fashion. Fashion, it
was understood, is an agent of repression "” and repression is an agent
[of] democracy's death....

There also is an emotional dimension to the effectiveness of
communication. Speakers, especially speakers on significant or
controversial issues, often want their audience to understand how
passionately they feel about their subject or message. For many
speakers on religious or political subjects, for example, having their
audience perceive and understand their passion, their intensity of
feeling, can be the single most important aspect of an expressive act.
And for many people, what matters most about a particular instance of
communication is whether it inspires emotions in the audience, i.e.,
whether it has the emotional power to move the audience to action or to
a different level of interest in or commitment to an idea or cause. For
such people, the effectiveness of communication is measured by its
emotional impact, by the intensity of the resonance it creates.
How is all this relevant to our review of the University's
civility requirement? Civility connotes calmness, control, and
deference or responsiveness to the circumstances, ideas, and feelings
of others. ["¦] Given these common understandings, a regulation that
mandates civility easily could be understood as permitting only those
forms of interaction that produce as little friction as possible, forms
that are thoroughly lubricated by restraint, moderation, respect,
social convention, and reason. The First Amendment difficulty with this
kind of mandate should be obvious: the requirement "to be civil to one
another" and the directive to eschew behaviors that are not consistent
with "good citizenship" reasonably can be understood as prohibiting the
kind of communication that it is necessary to use to convey the full
emotional power with which a speaker embraces her ideas or the
intensity and richness of the feelings that attach her to her cause.
Similarly, mandating civility could deprive speakers of the tools they
most need to connect emotionally with their audience, to move their
audience to share their passion.
In sum, there is a substantial risk that the civility requirement
will inhibit or deter use of the forms and means of communication that,
to many speakers in circumstances of the greatest First Amendment
sensitivity, will be the most valued and the most effective.

Wow!  This is fantastic, and aimed right at University speech codes that try to ban any speech that offends someone [a standard that tends to be enforced unevenly, typically entailing prosecuting only those students who offend people who are like-minded with the school's faculty and administration.

 

When Did We Start to Fear Speech?

I feel like it is time for one of those unpopular libertarian rants that piss everyone off.   As with the last time this issue came up, I just don't understand what we fear so much letting Iranian dictator Amadinejad speak on American soil.  I am absolutely all for letting people put themselves on the record in the clearest possible way.  McQ over at Q&O is a smart guy I often agree with, but his core assumption seems to be that an invitation from Columbia University somehow confers some legitimacy on an otherwise egregious world leader.  How?  I am not sure the Columbia name even confers much legitimacy on its faculty.  The only thing the decision communicates to me is that Columbia, the university that didn't allow presentation of the Mohammad cartoons and that allows speakers to be manhandled off the stage, is deeply confused about speech issues on campus.

Information is always useful.  Would I have allowed Hitler to speak in the US in the 1930's?  Hell yes!  I wish he had gone on a 20-city speaking tour.  Hitler couldn't help but telegraph his true intentions every time he spoke.  Hell, he wrote it all down in a book if people would have paid attention.  But what if he didn't?  What if he convinced all America he was peaceful?  Even then it would have been useful.  Intelligent media (if there are any left) could then compare and contrast what he said at home vs. what he said in the US, much like a few folks do with Muslim clerics, comparing their English and Arabic speeches.  Further, folks would have immediately seen Hitler was lying in September of 1939, and, knowing Americans, they would have been more pissed off at him for being lied to.  Further, it would be fabulous to have quotes form Mussolini, touring eastern US cities, praising the New Deal and the NRA, much of which was modeled on his program in Italy.

What about, as Roger Simon asks:

I have a question for the Columbia crowd, since Holocaust deniers are
welcome, would you allow a speaker in favor of a return to black
slavery? I hope not. Well, that's how I feel about Holocaust deniers.

Absolutely I would.  If there was a prominent person who advocated the return to black slavery, I would want that person on the record in public.  I would love to listen to see what kind of supporters he thought he had, and, perhaps more importantly, to see who reacted favorably to him.   You have to pull these guys up into the sunlight and show the world how distasteful they are.

Update:

During the 1930s, "one of the things we really lacked in this country
was sufficient contact with Nazis to realize what they are up to," said
Harvey Silverglate, a prominent civil rights attorney who has sharply
criticized higher education for failing to support free speech on
campus. The notion "that you're going to take really awful people and
not listen to them is really suicidal for any society."

Introducing Obama to Capitalism

Via TJIC:

In his commencement speech at Southern New Hampshire University
this morning, Obama - like most commencement speakers - delivered a
call to public service; unlike many, however, he also warned against
the charms of doing what most college graduates set out to do: Make
money.

"In a few minutes, you can take your diploma, walk off this
stage and go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the
nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you
should buy.

"But I hope you don't. Focusing your life solely on making a
buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And
it will leave you unfulfilled," he told the crowd.

This statement would certainly be true in 18th century European monarchies, in Soviet Russia, in third world Kleptocracies, in Cuba, and in Chavez's Venezuela.  Because making money in these environments is a zero-sum game, and the only way to get rich is to loot it from some poor schmuck who is actually creating the value.

But here in America, we (mostly) have this cool system called capitalism.  In capitalism, all interactions are based on the voluntary self-interest of the parties involved.  This means that one only can "make a buck" by doing something or making something that is of value to another person.  And only by successfully serving the needs of a LOT of people does one get really rich. 

TJIC's conclusion is wonderful:

Far better that they spend their life

  • majoring in political "science"
  • working for a meaningless non-profit
  • trying to register more people to vote so that the negative-sum game of politics can have more credibility
  • helping political partisans redrawn electoral district boundaries in the same negative-sum game of politics
  • being a senator, pushing for more regulations and tax increases

That, clearly, is a fulfilling life.

Let the suckers create value.

The best and brightest should just steal it, and move it around
(while taking some portion of it for themselves, and destroying another
portion of it).

Beware of people who try to demonstrate how much they "care" using other peoples' money.

Don't Be Afraid to Let Your Enemy Speak

In this post, when I said that I thought the university had a duty to
intervene with protests only when the protests had the effect of
silencing or preventing invited speakers from speaking, this is the
type of thing I was talking about

Students stormed the stage
at Columbia University's Roone auditorium yesterday, knocking over
chairs and tables and attacking Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the
Minutemen, a group that patrols the border between America and Mexico. 

Mr. Gilchrist and Marvin Stewart, another member of his group, were
in the process of giving a speech at the invitation of the Columbia
College Republicans. They were escorted off the stage unharmed and
exited the auditorium by a back door. 

Having wreaked havoc onstage, the students unrolled a banner that
read, in both Arabic and English, "No one is ever illegal." As security
guards closed the curtains and began escorting people from the
auditorium, the students jumped from the stage, pumping their fists,
chanting victoriously, "Si se pudo, si se pudo," Spanish for "Yes we could!"

I don' t think such thuggery is protected by the first ammendment, and
certainly a private institution should be able to make sure their
invited speakers actually get to speak.  Columbia really needs to rethink its free speech policies, if it allows this behavior to occur but shuts down the hockey team for this.

By the way, I am a strong detractor of the Minutemen, their goals, and
the activities.  It's good for the soul - everyone should take the time
to defend the free speech of someone they disagree with.  Mr. Gilchrist should have been allowed to speak.  This is unfortunately yet
another example of where I am horrified by the actions of people who
agree with me.  I mean, from a PR standpoint alone, the Minutemen could not have scripted a protest that would have done more than this one to enrage and energize its supporters.  STUPID!  For my fellow travellers in the pro-immigration
movement, I would suggest you read this:  Why its good to let your enemies speak.

Update:  I was correct -- immigration foes are using this stupidity as a rallying cry.  While I often disagree quite strongly with LGF on this issue, they have a good quote from the perpetrators of this protest that highlights exactly the "free speech for me but not for thee" logic that I hate.  First they say, as all free speech opponents say:

We celebrate free speech.

Uh, OK.  Then they continue:

for that reason we allowed the Minutemen to
speak

Mr. Gilchrist was an invited guest of a private institution.  Your permission is not required or relevant.  The implication is that you somehow have a veto over everyone's speech, and they speak at your sufferance.  And finally this:

The
Minutemen are not a legitimate voice in the debate on immigration.

This is the key, absolutely dangerous assumption that all-too-many people hold in this country.  That somehow speech can be parsed into "legitimate" and "illegitimate", with the clear implication that illegitimate speech has no first amendment protection.  But who decides what is legitimate?  Of course, implicit to anyone who says this, is the assumption that "why, me and my guys would decide."  It is for this reason I have opposed "hate speech" laws in the past.

 

My University in the News

"Shouldn't Princeton students have the same rights as their counterparts down the road at Mercer County Community College?"

Princeton is a private institution, and has a greater ability than state institutions to set its own codes of conduct for its students.  That being said, as one who wants Princeton to remain a strong institution, I don't understand what the university's interest is in limiting free speech.  Particularly booing at a play.  The only exception I might make to this are efforts to make sure that invited speakers or scheduled performances can actually be heard and aren't drowned out by protesters, but I don't get the sense that this is what is going on here.

This "unwanted verbal conduct" standard that a number of universities have adopted is absurd, and is only harming students by releasing them into the real world believing that the government will protect them from encountering any criticism.  In this sense, Princeton and other universities are creating students in the modern Islamic mold, teaching them they should somehow be immune to criticism and that they should react with rabid outrage at the first person who says anything negative about them.  The only difference is that these students are being taught to respond with lawyers rather than explosive backpacks, but the outcome in terms of stifled free speech is the same.